2013-04-10 / Columnists
Pets pets pets
The demise of Ding Dongs, Twinkies and Hostess cupcakes turned out to be a good thing for a large group of feral cats fending for themselves. Commercial and industrial sites have long been home unsweetened home to ferals, our feline shadow citizens. When these poor cats continue to reproduce, the population
(as well as the suffering) swells exponentially. Trap/Neuter/Return (TNR) is the best way we know to manage their care, and stop the cat explosion.
Just as the Wonder Hostess outlet in Bohemia was about to close, cat-loving customers stumbled on a huge colony of unaltered cats, so several rescue groups joined forces to remedy the situation, and to stop the flood of new kittens that already spilled over onto adjacent properties. (“Remedy the situation” means to set up a managed colony with proper caretaking. However, I just broke rule #1…you are not supposed to reveal where a managed cat colony is for fear that the unscrupulous will abandon more cats there.)
Since the beginning of the year, 170 feral cats have been spayed, neutered and vaccinated at three free TNR clinics hosted by Last Hope Animal Rescue in Wantagh. Linda Stuurman, Last Hope president, orders the medical supplies, recruits the team and books the appointments (all while working her real job in NYC.) A team of seven veterinarians, 10 vet techs and a dozen volunteers donate their services each time. Since Last Hope leases the former Bideawee Home, Bideawee kindly lends Last Hope their hospital suite that sits at the end of our Dog Adoption Center to hold these free TNR clinics. Additional trapping and surgical recovery assistance has been provided by Almost Home of LI which is based in Bohemia. Females have a longer recovery period, up to five days, so many convalesce in a back room at Last Hope before being re-released.
Half of the 170 cats were trapped at the Hostess vicinity where those returned now reside in a managed colony; and at least 20–like a gray female dubbed “Twinkie”–turned out to be tame enough to join Last Hope’s adoption program. The rest of the surgical slots were open to the public. Diligent feral caretakers do more than feed; they make sure all ferals on their watch are spayed and neutered.
TNR 101: Basically TNR involves humanely trapping ferals, having them spay/neutered and vaccinated for rabies, then returned after a short convalescence in a holding area to their same territory where a caregiver provides food, shelter and monitoring on a daily basis. Kittens and newly abandoned (or long lost) pet cats are adopted into homes whenever possible. Those cats returned are ear-tipped while under anesthesia- a ¼ inch is painlessly cut from the left ear at a 45-degree angle- the universal sign that a cat is already altered. The cats at the Last Hope free clinics also receive distemper combos, wormings, flea treatment and pain meds. Some vets will pull bad teeth while the feral is sedated because this may be the only opportunity to address obvious health issues with a cat that avoids people. Those friendly enough to go up for adoption are tested for feline leukemia and FIV.
The first Hostess TNR clinic in early January was a collaborative effort of Last Hope and Almost Home to trap as many cats on the Bohemia property as possible. That day 52 cats were altered. The next two clinics were open to the public too. In March, the alley cat tally was 64, and in April, 53 cats were altered. Clinic organizers overbook appointments because weather conditions and feline whims can deter even hungry cats from entering the humane trap.
During TNR clinics, the team works together at stations, assembly-line style. Tagging is done in duplicate so that once a cat is out of a tagged trap; a matching tag is tied to his paw only while he is in recovery. A checklist of medical services completed is marked on the tag. Blankets and towels are not identifying cage markers because so much shifting is going on. Such care goes into putting the right groggy cat back into the right trap or carrier. (Speaking of groggy cats, “El Gordo” shown here was trapped in Woodbury. He’s a lucky boy because, even when not sedated, he’s friendly enough to be put up for adoption rather than going back to his feeding station.)
Each vet has a distinct surgical method, tempo and preferences. For instance, some doctors choose to operate only on males. This allows so many cats to be helped on a single day. Participants offer ideas to streamline the process in a safe and hygienic way. At the latest clinic, one veterinarian suggested that Last Hope include a certain needle holder with a cutter for the surgical packs. This way the doctor could tie the knot and cut the suture in one motion, without putting down one instrument and picking up another.
TNR is about quality of life for feral cats. In a “purrfect” world, all cats would have human contact and be socialized during that brief kitten window of opportunity so they can find loving homes. With continued TNR campaigns, fewer and fewer future ferals will be born. Perhaps someday we will approach our goal that every cat will be “wanted” and adoptable. After three Hostess TNR clinics, none of these 170 cats, or their prevented progeny, will ever reproduce. That’s a small reason to celebrate. Unfortunately, there are no freshly baked Twinkies or Hostess cupcakes available to serve at the after-clinic party.
For Adoption at Babylon Town Shelter (631- 643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: Golden/Shepherd mix “Henry” #13-188 was picked up in an industrial area with his twin sister “Koi” #13-187. “Gildersleeve” an extremely friendly, unkempt longhaired cat is not a feral. According to residents at the trailer park, his owner died and the poor boy has been wandering around outside since January. “Gildersleeve” was very tolerant of his vet exam and de-matting. He will be shaved down.
More Dogs: “Seymour” lovable Lab mix; “Spooky” #13-146 Canaan dog mix.